בס"ד

Pre Yizkor message, Yom Kippur 5778 

Yizkor. A word with so much weight to many, yet so meaningless to many more - thank G‑d.

Yizkor. For those who will remain in the room, are there really any words we can say? Is silence not the best for this time?

Yizkor. For the many who walk out, what meaning, if any, can there be to this 5-7 minute (breakfast? ;)) break?

Yizkor. Personally a very difficult word and time. Can hardly remember the time in my life I did leave shul for it. Yet, to leave it all to our raw emotions, without something to hold onto just doesn't sound just.

I take a lesson from my Rebbe, our Rebbe. He had the custom of holding onto the pillar of a Torah during this recital. His reasoning he did not divulge, yet perhaps it is because we must grasp Torah and look for meaning in what is Yizkor.

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Did you ever wonder why in Judaism, some of our most sacred moments are experienced with our eyes closed?

At a Jewish wedding we veil the bride.

When we say Shema Yisroel, the motto of Judaism, we cover our eyes.

When we light Shabbat candles and welcome the Shabbat queen we place our hands over our eyes.

When Jews pray, say Yizkor, we often close our eyes.

When we kiss our children, we often instinctively close our eyes.

When we bless our children on Friday nights and on the eve on Yom Kippur, many Jews again close their eyes.

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Helen Keller wrote of a conversation she had with a friend, and her musings on it.  

“Now and then I have tested my seeing friends to discover what they see. Recently I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the woods, and I asked her what she had observed. "Nothing in particular," she replied. I might have been incredulous had I not been accustomed to such responses, for long ago I became convinced that the seeing see little.

Continued: Helen Kellers observation 

How was it possible, I asked myself, to walk for an hour through the woods and see nothing worthy of note? I who cannot see find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly about the smooth skin of a silver birch, or the rough, shaggy bark of a pine. In spring I touch the branches of trees hopefully in search of a bud, the first sign of awakening Nature after her winter's sleep. I feel the delightful, velvety texture of a flower, and discover its remarkable convolutions; and something of the miracle of Nature is revealed to me. Occasionally, if I am very fortunate, I place my hand gently on a small tree and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song. I am delighted to have the cool waters of a brook rush through my open fingers. To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug. To me the pageant of seasons is a thrilling and unending drama, the action of which streams through my finger tips.

At times my heart cries out with longing to see all these things. If I can get so much pleasure from mere touch, how much more beauty must be revealed by sight. Yet, those who have eyes apparently see little. The panorama of color and action which fills the world is taken for granted. It is human, perhaps, to appreciate little that which we have and to long for that which we have not, but it is a great pity that in the world of light the gift of sight is used only as a mere convenience rather than as a means of adding fullness to life.

If I were the president of a university I should establish a compulsory course in "How to Use Your Eyes." The professor would try to show his pupils how they could add joy to their lives by really seeing what passes unnoticed before them. He would try to awake their dormant and sluggish faculties.

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Only when they pass on, and we can no longer see them, do we begin to appreciate what we are missing.

Yizkor. When we close our eyes and begin to see our parents in a new light. As long as they are alive, and we can see them with our naked eyes, we often remain blind.

And that is why we close our eyes during so many of the intimate moments of Judaism, because sometimes what the eyes see, blind us.

Ever heard of someone who doesn’t close their eyes during Yizkor?

It is when we don’t see – or when we do not physically have our loved ones that we begin to miss them.

We may have had difficult moments with them, yet, we miss them – or their figure in our lives, the father figure, the nurturing mother figure.

Let us remember - we all have moments in our day to which we need to be more mindful, to ourselves, our spouse, our children, co-worker, and last but not least, our Maker. To remember who they - and we really are. And cherish that in each person, in each encounter, in each memory we create with our every wake moment.

Let us all resolve to Yizkor, remember.

Remember, when we could see with our eyes.

And ask G‑d to remember for good those whom we can no longer see with our eyes of flesh - in the merit of our charitable giving in their memory, until the time when the dead will rise, as the prophet said, vhokitzu vranenu shchnei ofor.